Adam Cuthbertson: Women's game key to opening up the sport to a wider audience

IT HAS been a long build-up, but Leeds Rhinos women's team, which I coach, will finally play their first competitive game this weekend.

Friday, 13th April 2018, 6:00 am
Lois Forsell.

It’s important to talk about the girls this week because the Women’s Super League is going to broaden the audience for our sport.

We play Bradford away on Sunday. Their men play Coventry at 2pm and we kick off after that, at 4pm. We have got the main event slot for this game, which is great.

Kallum Watkins.

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When I heard we’d be part of a double-header I assumed we would be the curtain-raiser, but playing after the men means the crowd will be in place and it is a great way to reward the girls and launch the new women’s season. It is great to have a Leeds-Bradford derby, because the game has missed that.

A lot of our girls have come to us from the Bulls and their old team-mates are going to be a bit spiteful towards them for leaving. The girls themselves will want to play well to prove their worth playing for Leeds, so it is going to be a good, intense game and I know our team can’t wait to get out there.

It has be a long three months of gruelling fitness, weights and defensive work and we’ve played a lot of football without playing a competition game.

They were so disappointed after the game at Featherstone was cancelled last week and it will be a relief for the girls to get out there and finally pull on the Leeds jersey for the first time in a competitive game.

Leeds coach Brian McDermott is pictured with Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins. (Picture: Simon Hulme)

I have watched women’s rugby league in the past, but only on the world stage, at the World Cup.

I have never really seen much of the Super League and I wasn’t sure what the standard would be like, but when we came up against Cas in our trial game, the one thing I noticed was the collisions are bang on. We didn’t play as well as we can, but they put their bodies on the line.

The skill set is good and there is a determination to attack, but I think it is an entertaining style of play because they are so committed to the collision.

I thought maybe they’d be a bit reserved and there’d be a lot of tackling around the legs, but they are willing to get out there and batter each other. That is what we have talked about this week, putting bodies on the line and doing whatever it takes for your team-mates.

Kallum Watkins.

I was at Headingley on Wednesday when the Minister of Sport was there and one thing I noticed was how much interest there is in the women’s game.

There’s a real willingness to push the women’s game and build towards the next World Cup. I think one reason England didn’t do well last year – and Australia and New Zealand did – was because there’s not been much development done, but now everybody’s buying into it.

There has been a real turnaround. At Leeds the management and coaching staff – Gary, Mac and Davo – have really bought into helping the women’s game and sponsors are backing us too, like MSC and Mears.

I thought we might have to find our own facilities, but we are using the same gym and the same fields we train on in the first team and it really feels like the women’s team are an important part of the club.

Leeds coach Brian McDermott is pictured with Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins. (Picture: Simon Hulme)

I don’t know if that’s the case at the other Super League clubs but I hope so because the more the women’s game develops the better it will be for the game as a whole.

On another topic, congratulations to Kallum Watkins on his new contract. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap when I first got here, other than he was a great player and he didn’t say much.

The person he has grown into, it has been staggering to see him go from quite a quiet character with so much ability to a real leadership role and captain of Leeds Rhinos.

It can’t have been easy picking a captain because there were plenty of candidates to choose from, but when Mac sat down and made the decision he did a really good job.

There’s more expectation on Kallum now and he has mastered that and really grown, and being captain has brought the best out of him.

He doesn’t say a lot, but when he talks people listen and that’s what you want from a captain.

He does the razzle dazzle, but he also does the little things and leads by example.

He has been great for us and his new contract is going to stand us in good stead for a long time to come.